Yankees outfield gearing up for new alignment with defensive stud returning

harrison bader, yankees
Feb 23, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) fields a ball during spring training practice at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees‘ center fielder Harrison Bader, currently in his second injured list spell of the season, featured in a minor league rehab game on Wednesday.

Donning the Somerset Patriots’ jersey, the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, Bader is set to test his recovery. If all proceeds as planned, he’s anticipated to rejoin the active roster just in time for the crucial weekend series against the Boston Red Sox.

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Bader’s Impact on the Yankees’ Performance

Not merely a transformative fielder at center, Bader has also maintained a .267/.295/.511 record with six homers, 19 RBIs, and six stolen bases in his 95 plate appearances with the Bombers this year.

Despite grappling with oblique and hamstring injuries, his offensive contributions remain invaluable. With Aaron Judge and Greg Allen, both injured and Aaron Hicks recently released – all of whom were potential center fielders – Bader’s imminent return to center field on most nights is a much-needed boost for the team.

Reorganizing the Yankees’ Outfield

The pressing question remains: who will take charge of the corners?

Currently, the Yankees have been heavily leaning on recent signees Billy McKinney and Isiah Kiner-Falefa for center field duties. Defensive metrics and observational evidence suggest Kiner-Falefa outperforms at center compared to shortstop.

In terms of right and left field, Jake Bauers, McKinney, and Willie Calhoun have been in rotation, with Oswaldo Cabrera maintaining a more reserve role.

The Probable Lineup Upon Bader’s Return

Once Bader returns by the weekend, the Yankees will likely favor McKinney for the challenging left field at Yankee Stadium, provided his current form holds. He currently boasts a 143 wRC+ and 1 DRS in left field.

Kiner-Falefa will also get some time in left. Both Calhoun and Bauers, who have been hitting well recently, are likely to feature more in right field until Judge’s return. One thing is undeniable: Bader’s comeback will enhance the Yankees’ outfield defense and fortify their offense.